Posted by paulrivas on:
I'm a bus rider. Not so much these days, because from where I live off North Fairview I can bike to work at UCSB in less than half the time it'd take me to go by bus, but in general. Historically, I like a bus ride.
I've been a four-bus-a-day commuter in Santa Barbara. I've done the 3 a.m. shitsmelling parolee express Greyhound to San Francisco and back. That time, the bus crashed on the way home. I've ridden a bus that drove right onto a train for passage through the Chunnel, and one that drove onto a ferry in Bolivia while a little girl helped her father gut a crocodile beside the riverbank with a knife between her teeth. On a 24-hour journey through the Paraguayan wasteland, I saw a dog eating rocks. I've been pressured into taking a small boy's seat on an oversold trip through the Syrian desert, and I've gotten off a bus in the middle of the Mexican desert to pee only to find that when I came out of the bathroom, the bus had gone. I've ridden a bus that only ran one day a week, in the Western Rodopi Mountains of Bulgaria, on a day it wasn't scheduled. I've made a round trip journey on the World's Most Dangerous Road. And one time, I rode the bus from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Tucson, Arizona, which took three and a half months.
Without fear of sounding young and dumb, I thought I'd seen it all, bus-wise. Then Rivas Cultural Services took two meetings in downtown Santa Barbara on Friday, January 2, and I saw something that made me stop and rub my eyes like Squints in The Sandlot when he first sees Wendy Peppercorn. Going in and out of the Transit Center, presumably all day long, were buses bearing New Year's greetings on the electronic boards that usually only announce each line's number and route. Every few seconds, "11 State/Hollister" would clear and the bus would wish its riders "Happy New Year". A nice gesture, to be sure, but otherwise perhaps not terribly remarkable. But this is Santa Barbara – the sunny Santa Barbara that brought you the Old Spanish Days celebration that local English speakers call Fiesta and Spanish speakers call fiestas – and every once in a while an attempt is made to acknowledge the Spanish speakers around town, who are of course actually the majority.
In its latest effort to appeal to the hardworking international craftsmen who make up the vast majority of its ridership, or maybe just to ameliorate the bad public relations that come with 40% rate hikes (from $1.25 to $1.75, effective January 1), MTD sought to wish our Latin American brothers a Happy New Year in their own language. Now, as anyone who has even a high school student's grasp of Spanish grammar knows, MTD always blows it with Spanish. While there's plenty of Spanish on MTD signs and literature, none of it is entirely correct. To be fair, misspellings abound in Spanish, and especially so in the written Spanish of the undereducated Mexican immigrant. For proof, go to Taquería Rincón Alteño on Haley Street and look at the soccer poster on which someone has scrawled "Ariva Chivas", rather than "Arriba Chivas". Yet – and as the example shows – such errors rarely change the meaning of what is being said, often going unnoticed, and are thus harmless and forgivable.
This New Year's, however, that would not be the case, and here I have yet another unfortunate instance of multiculturalism gone terribly awry. "11 State/Hollister" gave way to "Happy New Year", which in turn gave way to the MTD's best approximation of "Happy New Year" in Spanish. "Feliz Año Nuevo" would have done the trick. It means "Happy New Year" in Spanish. However, it's quite possible that Spanish language letters aren't available on the electronic boards with which our local buses are equipped. The usual way around this dilemma would have been to write "Feliz Anyo Nuevo". This would have reproduced the sound of the tricky ñ. It would be spotted right away as a misspelling, but anyone doing so might have understood what the cause had been, and the pronunciation would have remained true. More than likely, any reader would have excused the old partially-government-funded try and considered himself to have been wished a happy new year in his mother tongue.
Nevertheless, Rivas Cultural Services firmly believes that even "Feliz Anyo Nuevo" would have been quite unnecessary, the reason being that even the most recent immigrants would likely be able to discern the message implied by a three-word salutation appearing all over town on January 1 and disappearing shortly thereafter. It may have taken a day or two, or possibly even a year, but I really think they'd get there, don't you? Which only makes the message that actually appeared on the buses that much more disappointing.
"Feliz Ano Nuevo", the buses said, clear as day. The only problem is that ano is Spanish for anus.
Happy New Anus!
Honestly now, on the most basic level, which is better? Wishing a border brother Happy New Year in your language, or Happy New Anus in his?
Rivas Cultural Services
Santa Barbara - Mexico City - Buenos Aires